I was never drawn to the cheesecake, nor did I ever even consider anything that had less than five digits of pieces. There were certainly no bikini girls hanging in my Gallerie du Puzzlé at home, and at five hundred pieces it would be less a puzzle than foreplay to a fap. It was a brow furrower for neanderthal fratboys, a birthday present they'd give to one of their smarter friends after ruling out books as being for faggots.
So it was with some unease that I found myself at the counter buying it.
The girl that rang it up was new, but nonetheless she should've known better. I was watching her face for a reaction upon seeing the puzzle. The slightest narrowing of eyebrows that would say wait, this guy is nowhere near ugly enough to be buying this. It has to be for a friend. Or the slight raising of eyebrows that would say hang on, why would he spurn his usual Bavarian vistas for this slice of cheesecake? My excuses were prepared and watertight, they were a phalanx standing in ranks at the ready.
But they were never needed. She said hello, zapped it, took my money and smiled me off. Not once did she react to the incongruity, and by extension implied that it was perfectly normal, business as usual, for this man to stoop so low as to buy that puzzle. Right. Enjoy flossing out that fratboy smegma, you little bitch.
It felt just plain wrong to be allowing this puzzle the honour of entering my Gallerie du Puzzlé. To be sure it was an honour it had done nothing to earn, save for that feeling that I now could not identify. Perhaps I pitied the puzzle, perhaps like one would a pound animal, knowing that without my intervention its fate would be lethal injection. Or worse, an abusive, letter-jacketed owner.
But what if it wasn't the puzzle I pitied?
What if it was the girl?
Enough. Though its five hundred pieces would take no longer than five minutes to finish, at that point it would no longer matter how many pieces it used to be. For whether a puzzle was ten pieces or ten million, it became one piece when complete. Then it would be one piece hanging among others in my Gallerie du Puzzlé, itself a puzzle of three hundred and eighty pieces and counting. I did not know how many puzzles it would take to complete the Gallerie, but someday it too would become one piece.
And then it would be the only piece that did not need other pieces, the only one I would ever need. For what city on earth can boast the Sydney Opera House flanked on both sides by the ruins of Angkor Wat? Where else can you see the Guggenheims Bilbao and New York separated not by ocean but by mere feet? And then turn around to see the Edo Castle framed and hung proudly, restored by artist's impression to a time before it was bombed by buffoons? And where else can you not only see these sights but know that you put them together from smithereens? The Gallerie, only the Gallerie.
And yet here I was in the center of it, disgracing the operating table by pouring out onto it five hundred pieces of vapid bikini slut.
I divided all the pieces into their dominant colour groups, but it was almost insultingly unnecessary. There was the girl, the sea, the sky and the sand. Every piece fell assuredly into one of those categories. There were no gradations here, no overlaps, I did not need to make 'uncertain' piles and chart them with Venn diagrams, I did not even once need my colour wheel. I had completed harder puzzles in primary school. Was I losing my mind? Why the fuck did I buy this?
I was beginning to lay each piece on the puzzle proper before I felt a slight breeze through the room. The Gallerie was never violated by breezes, two storeys below street level. Had they had at last found me? I searched all over for some fraternity meatface who had broken in to vandalise my life's work as part of some hazing initiation homo jamboree. But there was no one.
The answers came, as they so often did for me, from the operating table itself. Resuming where I left off, I reached for the lighter blue pile of pieces, but it was gone. This meant I had completely assembled the sky. Leaning over the puzzle to confirm this, a breeze hit me full in the face.
I took a breath, sat up straight, and calmly placed down the darker blue pieces until the sea was complete. I heard the to-ing and fro-ing of tide, and the breeze became damp and salty.
The foliage once assembled brought the sounds of cicada and the sway of branches in wind. The completed sand contributed a sandy sense of ... a certain, uh, beach-osity ... umm like gulls and stuff ...
I stared at the girl-shaped hole in my living puzzle.
Slowly I placed down the pieces of her hair. It tousled in the breeze. One eye. Two eyes. They looked left, looked right, and then straight at me.
Then they began to cry.
Why? Was it my fault? Was I hurting her? Quickly, I granted her a face. To my surprise, the rest of it smiled warmly even as the tears rolled over it. She spoke.
"I can't believe it! You're real. Aren't you!"
"... yes?" I managed. It came out as a whisper and I cleared my throat.
"Oh thank god. Thank you so much."
I looked away but it felt ridiculous to pretend anything else had my attention. She spoke again.
"I can't believe it ... I'm alive! How did you do it? That's amazing!"
"I just put the puzzle ... just put you together. None of my other puzzles are alive ... you're the one ttt-that's a-ama-amazing."
Real smooth. Say it, don't spray it.
"I can move from side to side now, but I think if you finish me I could move up. I can almost feel it!"
"Up and out, to where you are!"
"... oh really?"
"Do you think you could complete me? Could you?"
"Of course I could it'd be easy it'd take two seconds r-rr-really easy."
Oh, you idiot. Yes I'm sure she's SO WET NOW from your SELF-PROCLAIMED PUZZLING GENIUS.
I swept her closer to me, swept closer the pile of her. It felt so awkward to be touching and sorting through the pieces of her body but she didn't seem to mind. Just the opposite. I pieced in her neck and shoulders, and she didn't try to hide the excitement in her voice. Unexpectedly, her voice did a lot for me. It certainly was not on the box illustration.
"Where did you go today! What did you do!"
"Uh ... I went to the store I guess."
"Wow! How far away is the store?"
"I don't know, a few kilometers."
"How far is that? Is it longer than this strip of sand?"
As I built her body from the head down, piece by piece, it occurred to me that I could no longer see the 'pattern' of the puzzle. The lines that demarcated the puzzle into its original pieces were either faint and fading or completely invisible. Never before had I seen a puzzle more eager to become one piece. As I placed the very next piece it right away seamlessly blended into the rest of her, and I felt something soft under my finger before I lifted it off. It was her left breast.
Immediately my hand shot away from her, and my face flushed with fire. She was going to scream. She was going to hate me. She was going to ...
... not notice at all? She spoke, looking off to one side as she did so.
"Can I ask you something? It'll sound silly, but."
"I, uh, yeah. Yes. What."
"When you finish me? When I get out of here? Could you ... take me to see things?"
"I want to see places. Any places. I want to more than anything. But I wouldn't even know where to go. I'd be terrified to go anywhere else but this stupid beach and I hate it so much ..."
"I'm scaring you."
"No! No. I-I-I'll do it. I just ..."
"... I just don't really know many places."
"What about that store place?"
"You'd want to go there?"
"I can t-ta-take you there."
"Thank you! Thank you!"
I continued to build her, dropping the pieces into place from a height so I wouldn't have to touch them when they became real.
My movements were calm and controlled but my brain was a flipbook. Was that ... a date? Just like that? And to the puzzle store ... the checkout chick's eyes bugging out when she saw us, realising how wrong she'd been about me. The bookish, trenchcoated scum that were the other patrons giving us a wide berth but unable to look away. Wanting her so badly, but unable to even indulge in their lurid fantasies because my arm around her waist stopped them before they could begin.
But what if someone recognised her? Maybe she wasn't the only living copy. I had bought the last one of her, but they could always get more in. The others would cotton on and the puzzles would fly off the shelves. They'd all stand in the store together with their own identical beach girl, still in her bikini, their filthy fat mitts all over her. And maybe she would go along with it, not knowing any better or worse. Hell, she'd just agreed right off the bat to go out with –
"Umm, maybe not the store." I said.
"Yeah, maybe somewhere else."
Shit. There were no other places. What was I thinking? Of course there weren't. I didn't need any other places.
I was down to her waist now, having pored over every inch of her above that. Where the light hit I saw no longer the harsh flare coming off the matte surface of the puzzle, but the tangible glow of actual skin. Golden and unblemished. My whole body pulsed, throbbed in every extremity. There was no doubt in my mind that once completed she would be able to walk right out of there.
No longer did she have to adhere to fantasy land standards, where she didn't really rate. Now she was just about real. And by real standards, I realised she was in fact hot as fuck.
And in the context of real, she reminded me of other real girls that were as gorgeous as her. The notion that I would take a girl that looked like this anywhere to see anything became patently ridiculous. Girls that looked like this did not collect puzzles. They went to bars and clubs and cafes. They had tan lines.
They danced to the dance music.
Yes, it was true that she was pure, a blank slate. She wasn't at all like them. Yet. The world did not leave girls like this alone. It bent over backwards for them. It offered them penis reduced for quick sale at thirty five cents a kilo. And it made them all the same.
What was the best that could happen? The absolute best? I was assailed by thoughts of my hands running all over her glorious body, ruining it by leaving dirty trails of sweaty inadequacy. While the idea of having her was so enticing as to invade and completely occupy my mind within seconds, it was also utterly repulsive. I pictured myself on top of her, grinding away for three seconds and then stopping for fifteen so I didn't pop. Her chin at my shoulder, eyes glazing over. And afterwards, saying to my face it was amazing, thinking to herself never again, nev-er a-gain.
She watched me lay down each piece, oblivious to the bitch she would become. She smiled warmly at me.
I pictured her wearing a semen-stained bib, scarfing down fratboy cocks and loving it.
My arms sunk to my sides.
"Is something the matter?" she asked.
"I'm not going to do it."
"Oh ... I understand. It's too much trouble. It was too much for me to ask that you take me places after all you've done for me already. Maybe your girlfriend wouldn't like th –"
"I meant I'm not going to complete you."
"... oh. W-why?"
"Why should I?"
"Please! But there's only three pieces left!"
"You don't want to be real. It gets old after a while."
"I do! I want to! I want to go see things and do things! Please!"
"You can see everything worth seeing in here."
With a slow, curator's sweep of the arm I gestured at the Gallerie.
Her pupils swelled as her eyes traced all around the many wings of the room. I noticed she was even able to bend up ever so slightly out of the frame for a better look. Perhaps feeling some empathy with its longterm unfinished state.
"But ... but those places are just like this beach!"
"What?! They are the masterpieces that make this earth. If you like, I can graft you onto one if you don't like your beach."
"No!! I just want to be real! Please!"
"Fine. You can stay like that then!"
Her gaze flitted back and forth in a panic between me, the Gallerie, and her missing pieces. Of all the ungrateful ... I had offered up a sacrifice to her and she had not even noticed. She was no goddess. She was instead seeming ever more like just another irritating girl. The world worked fast.
"Y-you'll leave me unfinished then? For how long?"
"As long as I choose."
"Have you ever not finished a puzzle?"
Bitch. Her voice was trembling, but was shored up by an unattractive tenacity. I refused to let her even faze me.
"Pffft. My record is pristine. But see I could finish you anytime, I simply choose not to."
"But you do a lot of puzzles. There's only three pieces left, and they're tiny! What if they get lost or something?"
"They're so small you might lose them. Like over time. You might."
"Then you'd never be able to finish me! Then there'd be a puzzle you couldn't finish."
"Maybe I don't want to!"
"You wouldn't be able to."
"MAYBE I DON'T EVER WANT TO!"
"You wouldn't be able to even if you wanted to."
bitch whore slut toxic aids enthusiast
"OH HAY! I KNOW WHERE I CAN PUT THEM SO I CAN ALLLLWAYS FIND THEM!"
She flinched on hay, again on put, and once more on find. It spurred me on. There were three remaining pieces left to play. Two would complete her leg, the last was a piece of pure sand.
I placed the sand piece on her leg. Didn't fit.
I slapped it in place with my palm. The piece was totally wrong and needed to be at an angle to even get in there, but it wasn't going anywhere now. I did the same with the other two pieces.
"Stop screaming! You want your cunt for a face? I can get you your cunt for a face!"
As real as the rest of her looked, as I expected the sand piece was not blending in with her body. The puzzle was incomplete. She was stuck. So were the remaining pieces. I could finish her anytime I wanted to.
Which wouldn't be anytime soon.
I framed her up, hung her with the best view in the Gallerie. She would surely come around faced with the majesty of the Opera House, Angkor Wat and Edo Castle round the clock. She still looked very much a girl of three dimensions, but for a single nail of sand that anchored her to two.
The urge was there to gloat in my triumph. But seeing her on her knees, clutching her unfinished, unnatural leg, an expression of total defeat on her face ... the stronger urge was to pity. The same feeling in the store when I bought her.
She was silent. I didn't like it. Made her seem no longer alive.
"This is what I'm like. You don't want to go anywhere with me."
She looked up.
"... yes I do ... somewhere ... please .... anywhere ... else."
Even after all that?! Impossible. No. No!
"NO!!! No-one does. You wouldn't stay. Eventually you'd meet some people and they'd be awful nice and through them some more good looking people and they'd be oh ever so nice and then you'd run away and then you'd never come back."
"But ... who ... where would I go? I don't even know anyone else."
"HA! HAHAHA! With a face like that! With ttt-t-tits like that! Oh, there'll be no shortage of assholes who'll want to know YOU!"
"... are you crying?"
"FUCKING SHUT UP! YOU'LL RUN AWAY! YOU'LL SPLIT BACK INTO FIVE HUNDRED PIECES AND RUN AWAY WITH FIVE HUNDRED OTHER MEN!"
oh fuck what just what was that does that even make sense
I stumbled about, punch drunk with the surprising insanity of my own tirade and the total oxygen depletion that resulted. Somewhere within the eye of my swirling vortex of hatred and self loathing was a nagging feeling that said I was totally wrong about this girl, and sure why not, everything else too.
The turn of the earth decelerated to normal, my knees stabilised, eyes refocused through tears. Her face slowly pulled into view. I was so sure that when the blur settled I would see the one raised eyebrow and curled lip that girls would shoot at anything they thought was lame beyond belief, beyond repair. But it wasn't that. When I could see clearly, it wasn't that expression at all.
It was pity.
And then abruptly it turned into a grimacing desperation as she thrust her upper body forward and out. Out into the world. Before I knew what was going on she had pried out the three pieces, including the one in her leg.
In a frantic rush, she was going to complete herself. If the pieces were so close as to be within reach, maybe she was just real enough already to do it.
She locked in the sand piece in its rightful place.
I charged towards her.
She slided the first piece of her leg in. Tears of exertion on her face.
The second piece of her leg and the last piece of the puzzle came down hard.
On my finger. Only just beating it to the empty space.
"No!" she cried, and hammered down her entire upper body strength onto the remaining piece.
Quickly I did likewise, pulling at the piece with both hands towards me whilst she pulled it towards her one empty space with both her hands. It became tug of war. She was an inch away from life.
"Let go! Let go!"
She would not. Her strength took me by surprise. Her eyes were closed, face contorted with effort. I could feel myself slipping, tiring, muscles and tendons that had been slumbering for years now awoke and screamed at me to surrender.
How is she so strong? How am I so weak? How is she so strong?
I realised only then just how badly she wanted to live, even if she had no idea what it was, it was something, and it was everything more than her nothing. No-one ever deserved life before they were granted it, but with this one act of pulling she had, and hey speaking of life, I had pissed away years of the stuff making faxes of it in my basement
Fuck. Fine. I would give her life. But not yet. I would not let her win the tug of war.
It had to be me that finished the puzzle.
I hiked up both my legs off the ground and onto the wall on either side of the puzzle and pushed off hard, adding my entire weight to the pull. Her pull did not budge.
My own thoughts jeered me, they heckled my efforts, derided my every victory in life, amplified and harped on every failure. I had been wrong about the girl. I had been wrong about everything. But there was one thing I knew I was not wrong about, just one, one final truth that did laps of my brain.
men are stronger than women men are stronger than women men are stronger than women men are stronger than women men are stronger than women men are stronger than women men are stronger than women
I kept pulling, she kept pulling, and then I heard her scream. It was shrill and like needles in my ears, and at first I assumed it was to put me off. Then I saw her face.
It was splitting along tiny, barely visible lines. The lines formed the pattern of puzzle pieces.
I kept pulling, she kept pulling, she kept screaming.
The lines spread all over her body.
I kept pulling –
She erupted out of the puzzle and across the room as five hundred pieces of torrential crimson gore. Her resistance gone, my pulling translated into a backwards flight across the room straight into the adjacent wall. The impact detonated the Opera House, it levelled the Edo Castle, it bulldozed the remaining ruins of Angkor Wat. They fell in hundreds of thousands of pieces with me to the ground, all of us red with splattered chunks of obliterated girl.
The chunks were perfectly shaped as puzzle pieces, but they were of denser thickness. Human thickness. Each chunk pooled out blood onto the floor, the hundreds of pools met and joined forces until the Gallerie was carpeted in the slick. As I struggled to get up I saw that in the side of one of the chunks was a cross section view of her eyeball, white and veiny. I retched, lost my footing, skidded across the Gallerie and projectile vomited the soft boiled eggs I had for breakfast directly into both Guggenheims.
And so I lie here, face down in the wreckage of my life's work; the mince of the one I love, guts, gore, and spew.